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INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION (ITUC) 

INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED CORE 
LABOUR STANDARDS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA 

REPORT FOR THE WTO GENERAL COUNCIL REVIEW OF THE 
TRADE POLICIES OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA 

(Geneva, 16 and 18 November 2010) 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 

Papua New Guinea has ratified all eight core ILO labour Conventions. In view 
of restrictions on the trade union rights of workers, discrimination, child labour, and 
forced labour, determined measures are needed to comply with the commitments Papua 
New Guinea accepted at Singapore, Geneva and Doha in the WTO Ministerial 
Declarations over 1996-2001, and in the ILO's Declaration on Fundamental Principles 
and Rights at Work and its 2008 Social Justice Declaration. 

The rights to form and join unions, to collectively bargain and to strike are 
recognised by law and in the Constitution. However, many legal provisions are not 
in conformity with the ILO Conventions and limit the scope of the laws on trade 
union rights. In practice, there are grave violations of workers' rights, especially in 
the logging industry. Reportedly the Department of Labour interferes in industrial 
relations by seeking to prevent strikes. 

The law prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including origin and 
gender. However, some legal provisions need to be brought in line with the ILO 
Conventions because they leave female, disabled and homosexual workers with 
inadequate protection from discrimination at work. Gender and other types of 
discrimination in employment occur. 

Child labour is outlawed; however the legislative framework has gaps. Child 
labour occurs primarily in farms, in street vending and in domestic servitude. Child 
prostitution is reported as a problem and sometimes children are forced into it by 
their own families. 

The law prohibits forced labour and trafficking but its provisions do not 
afford a maximum of protection, and penalties are not stringent. Forced labour 
occurs in mines and logging camps, as well as in the form of forced prostitution and 
involuntary domestic servitude. 



INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED CORE LABOUR STANDARDS 

IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA 



Introduction 

This report on the respect of internationally recognised core labour standards in 
Papua New Guinea is one of the series the ITUC is producing in accordance with the 
Ministerial Declaration adopted at the first Ministerial Conference of the World Trade 
Organisation (WTO) (Singapore, 9-13 December 1996) in which Ministers stated: "We 
renew our commitment to the observance of internationally recognised core labour 
standards." The fourth Ministerial Conference (Doha, 9-14 November 2001) reaffirmed 
this commitment. These standards were further upheld in the International Labour 
Organisation (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted 
by the 174 member countries of the ILO at the International Labour Conference in June 
1998 and in the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation adopted 
unanimously by the ILO in 2008. 



I. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining 

Papua New Guinea ratified ILO Convention No. 98, the Right to Organise and 
Collective Bargaining in 1976 and the ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of 
Association and Protection of the Right to Organise in 2000. 

The Constitution and the Industrial Organisations Act of 1962 prescribe the right 
to form and join trade unions. For trade unions to be legal registration with the 
Department of Labour and Industrial Relations (DLIR) is necessary. The law prohibits 
discrimination against workers seeking to join a union or engage in its activities, but the 
law has not been effectively enforced. 

The law recognises the right to engage in collective bargaining. However, for 
many years the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and 
Recommendations (CEACR) has been asking the government to give up its discretionary 
power to cancel arbitration awards or declare wages agreements void when they are 
considered contrary to government policy or national interest. 

The law provides for the right to strike and prohibits retaliation against strikers. 
Nevertheless, the DLIR is reported to have begun an active policy of interference in 
industrial relations by seeking to prevent strikes, even when legal requirements have been 
complied with. Moreover, it is reported that some employers have taken retaliatory 
measures against striking workers and that the law was not enforced. 

According to the CEACR, the Industrial Organisations Act includes the following 
provisions that need to be repealed: qualifications for trade union membership, refusal of 
registration to an industrial organisation, cancellation of an industrial organisation's 



registration, qualifications for serving as an officer of an industrial organisation, removal 
of trade union officers, cancellation of an organisation's registration as a penalty for 
prohibited payments by individual officers, cancellation of an organisation's registration 
as a penalty for unauthorised expenditures or for failing to maintain their accounts in 
accordance with the Bill, and excessive powers to the registrar to investigate union 
accounts and demand information. The government has indicated that they are currently 
drafting a new Industrial Relations Bill that will repeal or amend these provisions. 

Several reports reveal that, in spite of workers' constitutional rights to form and 
join trade unions, the reality is that the law is very poorly implemented. The agricultural 
commodities company Cargill, which left Papua New Guinea in April 2010, was abusing 
a series of workers' rights and breached the law on many occasions without serious 
consequence. In 2005, Cargill bought a company with huge oil palm estates and refused 
to recognise long-service entitlements which workers had earned in the previous 
company, removed paid maternity leave, refused to negotiate with the 5 year old trade 
union, refused to deduct union fees from wages, relocated the union leaders to the most 
remote places in the plantation, left 4,500 hours of unpaid overtime and refused to share 
financial reports with union members. The management told the union members that the 
company was unprofitable in order to refuse claims for pay rises, then one month later 
reported US$1.19 billion of profits in just three months of business activity. 

A Malaysian logging company, Rimbunan Hijau, is another example of a 
company that abuses workers' rights in Papua New Guinea. The International Union of 
Food Workers (IUF) and the ForestNetwork accuse the company of "cheating and 
dishonesty, cramped and unhygienic living conditions, racial and sexual abuse and 
complete disregard for the [workers '] health and safety. " In their 2004 report the 
Department of Labour of Papua New Guinea found that "[t]he company's treatment of its 
citizen employees reflects labour exploitation and slavery and should be condemned at 
all levels" . Moreover, the 2004 report of the Department of Labour and another 2004 
report of the Department of Community Development reveal that the company seems to 
have bribed the police in order to promote its interests. The reports also found over one 
hundred foreign workers with no valid work permit or visa working on unskilled or semi- 
skilled positions that could had been easily done by locals, extremely low wages (15 US 
cents/hour), "exorbitantly high " prices in the canteen where the employees were obliged 
to buy their food, no leave fares for workers from outside the province, cramped and 
unhygienic accommodation of workers, sexual abuses and rapes of local women, as well 
as trafficking of Indonesian women to work as sex workers in the camps. According to 
one of the reports, the company "has no interest in the training and development of local 
workers and implements no health and safety practices to protect its workers. " The 
Department of Labour report concluded that "the company has total disrespect for the 
Employment ofNon Citizens Act" . 

Summary 

The rights to form and join unions, to collectively bargain and to strike are 
recognised by law and in the Constitution. However, many legal provisions are not in 



conformity with the ILO Conventions and limit the scope of the laws on trade union 
rights. In practice, there are grave violations of workers' rights, especially in the 
logging industry. Reportedly the Department of Labour interferes in industrial 
relations by seeking to prevent strikes. 



II. Discrimination and Equal Remuneration 

Papua New Guinea ratified both ILO Convention No. 100 on Equal Remuneration 
and ILO Convention No. 1 1 1 on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) in 2000. 



The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, origin, colour, 
or sex. On the other hand, there is no specific employment anti-discrimination law. The 
Employment Act of 1978 only provides protection against wage discrimination for the 
same work, which is not sufficient to implement Convention No. 100 which stipulates 
"equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value". The draft 
Industrial Relations Bill includes a definition of remuneration in conformity with the 
Convention. In its correspondence with the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application 
of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), the government has indicated that 
there are no courts or tribunals that have issued decisions relating to the application of 
Convention No. 100, no grievances filed in the public service relating to unequal 
remuneration and no statistics available on the level of earnings of men and women in the 
private sector. 

The CEACR reports that the government communicated to the Committee on the 
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that only 15.2 per cent of the 
population is engaged in formal non-agricultural wage employment and that less than 5.7 
per cent of women are employed, mostly in the public sector. Moreover, the formal 
labour market is largely segregated by gender. Subsistence agriculture and other 
subsistence rural activities support the livelihoods of more than 80 per cent of the 
population and this sector employs most of the women. There is also a significant gender 
gap in education and literacy. 

Sexual harassment at the workplace is not prohibited, except in the Public Service 
Orders. 

The Constitution prohibits discrimination against disabled persons; however, 
persons with disabilities faced discrimination in accessing employment and social 
services. There is no provision to mandate building accessibility for disabled persons. 

Although the Constitution prohibits racial discrimination there is reported to be 
increasing violence against Asian workers and entrepreneurs, who are blamed for "taking 
employment opportunities. Throughout 2009 and 2010 many Asians have been attacked 
and Asian enterprises have been looted in various incidents. 



Homosexuality is illegal and lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) 
persons face discrimination in employment. 

There is no known law to prohibit discrimination against persons living with 
HIV/AIDS or enact special protection for them. In previous years there have been reports 
of some companies firing persons living with HIV/AIDS. The Business Coalition against 
HIV/AIDS has assisted companies to develop HIV/AIDS policies at the workplace. 

Summary 

The law prohibits discrimination on various grounds; however, various legal 
provisions need to be brought in line with the ILO Conventions. Gender discrimination 
and other types of discrimination in employment occur. 



III. Child Labour 

Papua New Guinea ratified both ILO Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age 
and Convention No 1 82 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 2000. 

The minimum age for admission to work is 16 years of age. It is prohibited for 
children younger than 16 to perform hazardous work, night work and work in mines. 
There is no list of hazardous occupations. Children between 1 1 and 18 can work in family 
enterprises after a special permit is granted by the labour inspectorate and provided that it 
does not interfere with school attendance. 

There are no legislative provisions prohibiting the sale and trafficking of children 
for the purpose of labour exploitation. The Criminal Code establishes 15 years' 
imprisonment or life imprisonment for obtaining or procuring a girl for commercial 
sexual exploitation, depending on the age of the girl involved. The Criminal Code does 
not specifically prohibit the use, procuring or offering of a child under the age of 1 8 for 
the production of pornography or for pornographic performances. However, it is expected 
that the government will soon pass the Child Sexual Assault Bill which deals with many 
issues of children involved in commercial sexual exploitation and the production of 
pornography. The Dangerous Drugs Act does not specifically prohibit the use, procuring 
or offering of a child for the production and trafficking of drugs. Nonetheless, the 
government has indicated in its correspondence with the CEACR that upcoming legal 
reforms will deal with this issue. 

Primary education is not free, compulsory, or universal. The gross primary 
enrolment rate is 55.2 per cent, but only 68 per cent of those children remain at school at 
the age of 10. Less than 20 per cent of the country's children attend secondary school. 

Child labour occurs in rural areas, usually in subsistence agriculture, and in urban 
areas in street vending, tourism and entertainment. It is reported that sometimes indebted 



families pay off their dues by sending children - usually girls - to their lenders for 
domestic servitude. "Adopted" children usually work long hours, they lack freedom of 
mobility or medical treatment, and they do not attend school. The CEACR reports that 
"[yjoung girls are particularly vulnerable and, when brought into a household as 
juvenile babysitters, their role is very often transformed into overworked, unpaid or 
underpaid, multi-purpose domestic servants. " Children working in entertainment were 
frequently vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation. The authorities did not enforce 
the law efficiently partly due to lack of resources and training. 

The government is implementing a 4-year programme funded by the EU for the 
withdrawal of children engaged in child labour and for building capacity of law 
enforcement officers. It is also implementing a National Action Plan against Commercial 
Sexual Exploitation of Children 2006-20 1 1 . The DLIR has addressed child labour issues 
in partnerships with the ILO's TACKLE Project. 

Summary 

Child labour is outlawed; however the legislative framework has gaps and does 
not protect children efficiently. Child labour occurs primarily in farms, in street 
vending and in domestic servitude. 



IV. Forced Labour 

In 1976, Papua New Guinea ratified both ILO Convention No. 29 (1930), the 
Forced Labour Convention and ILO Convention No. 105 (1957), the Abolition of Forced 
Labour Convention. 

The Constitution prohibits forced labour and slavery. Not all forms of trafficking 
are prohibited and there is no specific anti-trafficking law. Penalties for serious crimes 
such as forced labour and forced prostitution are not stringent enough to constitute an 
effective deterrent. 

In practice, forced labour occurs as women and girls, especially from the tribal 
areas, are forced into prostitution or domestic servitude and men are forced into labour in 
logging camps and mines. In these sites many men are paid very low wages and are 
obliged to buy food and goods from the sites' shops in very high prices on credit. In this 
way the workers are coerced into becoming debt peons. It is reported that tribal chiefs 
traditionally sell women and girls. In rural areas girls are forced into marriage by their 
relatives only to end up being domestic servants in the husbands' extended family. In 
urban areas girls are sold to brothels or forced into prostitution by their relatives. Much of 
the trafficking in women takes place for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation 
close to mines and logging camps. Police and border control officers are reported to 
receive bribes to turn a blind eye on undocumented immigration, trafficking in human 
beings and forced labour and prostitution. 



There have been no investigations, prosecutions or convictions for trafficking in 
humans. The state does not protect victims of trafficking, has made no effort to recognise 
such persons and has repeatedly failed to refer victims to NGOs. The authorities have 
even incarcerated victims of trafficking. 

Summary 

The law prohibits forced labour and trafficking in humans but the provisions 
do not offer the maximum of protection, and penalties are not stringent. Forced labour 
occurs in mines and logging camps, as well as in the form of forced prostitution and 
involuntary domestic servitude. 



Recommendations 

1. Legislation is required to remove the government's discretionary power to cancel 
arbitration awards or declare wages agreements void when they are considered 
contrary to government policy or national interest. 

2. The government must ensure that the Department of Labour and Industrial 
Relations does not try to prevent strikes. 

3. Employers who take retaliatory measures against striking workers or discriminate 
against union members should be subject to adequately dissuasive legal penalties. 

4. The government should enact the new Industrial Relations Bill in full compliance 
with the recommendations in this document and with the ILO's core labour 
standards. 

5. The government should implement measures to improve women's participation in 
the workforce and women's participation in high skilled and high paid jobs, and 
close the gender wage gap. The Employment Act of 1978 must be amended in 
order to include the legislative provision for "equal remuneration for men and 
women workers for work of equal value". 

6. The government should start collecting statistical data on the level of earnings of 
men and women in the private sector. 

7. Sexual harassment at the workplace should be prohibited. 

8. The government should investigate allegations that persons with disabilities face 
discrimination in accessing employment and social services. There should be a 
provision to mandate building accessibility for disabled persons and policies to 
improve building accessibility. 

9. The authorities need to protect Asian workers and entrepreneurs from violence 
and start positive action campaigns to change societal discrimination against 
foreigners and immigrants. 

10. Legislation is required to prevent discrimination against homosexuals, including 
at the workplace. 

1 1 . The government should actively encourage companies to adopt workplace 
HIV/AIDS programmes. 

12. Primary education should free, compulsory and universal. The government should 
take urgent measures to improve school enrolment and attendance rates with an 
emphasis on improving the female literacy rate. 

13. The law must be amended to stipulate that the minimum age for admission to 
work, as provided for in Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age, should be 14 
years of age. Children younger than 12 years old should not be allowed to work 
even in family enterprises. 

14. A list of hazardous occupations should be enacted after consultations with the 
social partners. 



15. The government should enact the Child Sexual Assault Bill while the Dangerous 
Drugs Act should be amended in order to prohibit the use, procuring or offering of 
a child for the production and trafficking of drugs. Laws prohibiting the sale and 
trafficking of children for the purpose of labour exploitation should be enacted. 

16. The government needs to take measures to change societal norms in the tribal 
areas in order to combat child labour, selling of children and women, and other 
traditional forms of slavery. 

17. Penalties for serious crimes such as forced labour and forced prostitution should 
be made more stringent. 

18. A specific anti-trafficking law should be promulgated that covers all forms of 
trafficking. The government should start actively prosecuting trafficking 
offenders and courts should seek to impose the highest penalties for those 
committing this serious crime. 

19. The government should reinforce their capacity to recognise and provide 
assistance to victims of trafficking. 

20. The government should build up its law enforcement and judicial capacities in 
order to monitor and enforce labour laws, including legislation on violations of 
workers' rights, on child labour and on forced labour and trafficking and start 
punishing those who commit such crimes. The Labour Inspectorate should be 
adequately funded and the inspectors properly trained. 

21. In line with the commitments accepted by Papua New Guinea at the Singapore 
and Doha WTO Ministerial Conferences and their obligations as members of the 
ILO, the government of Papua New Guinea should provide regular reports to the 
WTO and the ILO on their legislative changes and implementation of all the core 
labour standards. 

22. The WTO should draw to the attention of the authorities of Papua New Guinea to 
the commitments they undertook to observe core labour standards at the 
Singapore and Doha Ministerial Conferences. The WTO should request the ILO 
to intensify its work with the government of Papua New Guinea in these areas and 
provide a report to the WTO General Council on the occasion of the next trade 
policy review. 



10 



References 

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http://www.forestnetwork.net/rhw/pdf/14b%20Wawoi%20Guavi%20Community%20Re 
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Department of Labour and Employment- PNG, Inspection Report for Wawoi Guavi 
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http://www.forestnetwork.net/rhw/pdf/14a Wawoi Guavi Labour Report.PDF (The Wawoi- 
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Guinea, 14 June 2010, available at: 
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4c 1 883cf2d.html 

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